Neither Jiajia nor I ever wear much jewelry - I've never seen Jiajia wear her wedding ring since the day I bought it, over 10 years ago! So it was something of a surprise when Jiajia came home the other day with a pair of Gucci "his and her" rings for us! The inscription on the outside says "House of Love" in French, which wouldn't be my choice of words or language, but it was very generous of her and I've started wearing mine each day. Jiajia's seems to be in a cupboard somewhere!
Yesterday, JD's Primary School class sent out a message requiring all students to create a painting by tomorrow with the theme of "A Chinese Village". The top ten would then be entered into a Provincial Competition. But JD is currently getting home from his Homework Club at 10.00-11.00pm. There really is no time to break open the paints. So JiaJia reluctantly agreed to paint 90% of it on his behalf...
It's taken her many hours to get it finished [see above]. But yesterday, when another parent rang Jiajia for a chat, we found out that the other parents in the class simply pay someone to do their paintings for them. They found it funny that Jiajia actually does it herself! And the school don't seem to care who does it - as long as they get the kudos of winning prizes in the competition. What's the educational purpose of all of this? Maybe just to teach people how to cheat successfully?
We had a very hot half-day at Kunming's Botanical Gardens today, courtesy of Jiajia's VIP status at the Bank of China, who invited us to attend a Children's Day activity there. It started with a treasure trail, followed by light refreshments. Then an hour's guided tour around the large greenhouses (the world's first greenhouse was built here in 200BC!). And finally, a craft activity, sticking and labelling botanical specimens. JD's was deemed good enough to be framed as a prize.
Jiajia, JD and I had a further explore of the park by ourselves for an hour before taking a taxi to a newly opened noodle bar for a late lunch, and then back home for a well-earned rest!
Carnivorous plants (pitcher plant, venus fly trap, sundew)
Kunming is known as the "Spring City" with temperate weather all year. round. As such, snowfall is a once-in-a-decade surprise.
But yesterday, as I battled to work on my e-bike, Jiajia and JD were out enjoying the white stuff - snowball fights and a snowman.
JD hasn't really seen snow in Kunming before and I haven't seen this much in all my 15 years here. It's due to start disappearing today, although the unusually cold temperatures (-2ºC) will be here for a few more days yet.
JiaJia and I challenged JD to an Art Competition last week (to get him off the iPad for an hour or two!). We decided to all draw the same thing (JD chose one of his aeroplane toys) with the best sketch winning a prize [L to R below: Jiajia's, JD's, mine]. Who won, do you think?
JD's schoolteacher is fully aware that Jiajia has a Masters in Art and JD's English is fluent, so she often sends us details of Art/English Competitions for us to enter "for the glory of the school". The painting below was a JJ/JD joint effort for Teacher's Day!
Yesterday, we went with friends to an island town on TangLangChuan (literally "Praying Mantis River") in the countryside, about an hour's drive away. We had home-cooked banquets with friends of our friends and took a pleasant afternoon walk down the riverside to the enormous DianChi Lake. Then, on to a farm where we pulled up fresh vegetables for the evening meal and annoyed a huge goose.
JD's favourite activity was fishing in the river with his new net. He managed to catch three little minnows. For me, it was nice to spend a little quiet time with the wife, with mobile phones turned off!
It's the last day of JD's week off, and so when some of JD's schoolmates invited him to join them in visiting to Kunming's biggest funfair, we could hardly reuse. I'm doing IELTS examining at the moment, so it fell to Jiajia to join the other parents on the trip.
JD is fearless when it comes to big wheels, rollercoasters, high swings, whizzing roundabouts etc. So he had a blast. They also took in a couple of shows, before sharing a big meal on the way home.
We're in our 4th week of self-quarantine. We venture out into our neighbourhood occasionally to pick up food deliveries or do some exercise, but otherwise we are stuck at home waiting for the worst of COVID-19 to be over. Our Province of Yunnan is one of the least affected places in China, but that doesn't stop my good wife worrying about every possible "one in a million" chance of us catching anything! And to be fair, the advice from police, local government, hospitals and my University is also a pretty strict <STAY AT HOME>. So here we are for now, slowly going crazy!
[P.S. Our school entered the above (Jiajia /JD) painting
in a Provincial Competition and, to our surprise, it won!]
Before heading back to Kunming we spent a leisurely morning looking around ShiLin's Old Town (razed by bulldozers) and looking out for interesting places, such as the shop above selling hand-made funerary wares - a rare sight in a country where everything seems factory-produced these days. Then in the wet market, we saw these two diminutive "Hani minority" women selling various foods form their village. We bought some free range eggs (only to be told moments later by another nearby vendor that the eggs are the same "battery hen eggs" as everyone else's! Seems you pay a premium for the photo!
ON the way back to Kunming, we visited PanSiWan cemetery where Jiajia's Gran is buried. It was JD's first visit to a cemetery - cue a whole raft of deep questions on the remaining journey home!
Jiajia. JD and I went to an amazing theme park the other day, along with two other families from JD’s school. The attraction has an "Ocean Park" (large aquarium, plus dolphin, seal and beluga whale shows), a "Snow Park" (huge indoor -8ºC building with slides, aerial walkways, train, skating, skiing, "live snowing", igloos etc), fairground rides and a circus! And all this just a few hour's drive outside of Kunming!
We celebrated our Christmas this last weekend as we are all working on the actual day. JD woke at 6am to see what Santa had bought him [see above] and then we played with various toys throughout the day, opening all our presents after lunch. JD seemed more interested in making a junk plane from the boxes which the present came in at one point [bottom, left]. Then JiaJia managed a delicious roast dinner [bottom, right] in the evening to round off a very enjoyable day.
Merry Christmas to all my blog readers!!
Today, JD was added to JiaJia's registration papers to make him a full-registered Chinese citizen! He now has a "Hukou" which will allow him to get an ID card, access state schools and be insured. Most kids born in China do this within a few weeks being born, but JD's British passport complicated things and we delayed it. You see if you have a British passport, you can't get a British visa in your Chinese passport. And you can't leave China on your British passport because China doesn't recognise dual nationality (and being born in China makes JD Chinese as far as China is concerned). It was only in the last couple of months that these rules were relaxed, allowing JD to leave China on a temporary Permit regardless of him being fully registered. Confused? You're not the only one.
Apparently I'm an Uncle again, and JiaJia is an Aunt for the first time (by blood) ...not that she appears particularly bothered. We heard today that Jiajia's brother and his Laos wife had a baby boy a couple of weeks ago. They had told Ma-in-law, but not the rest of us. Ma showed us a couple of photos today. No name yet, but we believe mother and baby are doing well.
One of the few disappointments of our time in the UK was getting notice of a traffic fine in the final week of our car hire. I still have no idea of what it was for, as I thought I'd been very careful to keep below speed limits and park correctly. As yet, no paperwork has come through to our UK address, but I fear it's only a matter of time.
Then today, my Chinese driving license also got blemished. JiaJia received a parking fine yesterday dating back to June and persuaded me to take the points, as my license is (was) clean while hers is, let's say, cluttered! She also needs the car more than me. Our trip to the traffic police office today did at least provide some amusing Chinglish.
We are back in China and the unpacking is pretty well finished. As you might expect, it is a little hard to adjust back to life in a different country and culture after six weeks in the UK. The hawking and spitting noises in Kunming Airport's toilets quickly brought it all back though!
JD has been seemingly unaffected by the switch, just enjoying seeing his old toys again and sleeping in his own bed. He also showed no signs of jet lag. I woke at 4am one morning but otherwise have been alright. JiaJia though has had a few days of going to sleep at 5am and finally waking at midday. She's never the best sleeper, but this time it's taking her longer to adjust to China time. She is already back at work. I have a further week's holiday, while JD has two weeks vacation left.
We're continuing to enjoy our time in Hereford. It's a lovely city with parks and a river within walking distance of my brother's house. Esme has taken JD swimming in the river, despite the weather becoming little cooler than of late. Hereford cathedral is also eye-catching and Jiajia loves exploring the local charity shops. Josh is a life-guard at a nearby swimming pool, so JD and I had a fun swim at the pool, which has a wave machine and water chute tubes.
A terrific day in the capital today, starting at the London Eye and wandering down the Thames. As planes flew in formation overhead to celebrate 100 years of the RAF, JD was more interested in popping huge bubbles blown by a street artist while JiaJia was busy taking in a Picasso exhibit at the Tate Modern.
Later we explored the HMS Belfast before heading for my Aunt's house for a meal and sleep-over. Open-topped bus and river cruise tomorrow.
Past blog entries